Ditching Dairy when Breastfeeding

By Allegra Gast, RDN, IBCLC

More and more women are ditching dairy when breastfeeding because they notice their baby is extra fussy, cries inconsolably, or appears uncomfortable or other reasons. Cow’s milk products are the most common food that’s been linked to fussiness/gassiness in babies….well yeah, it’s milk of a different species that require a different milk composition than us humans do, and for a baby with an immature gut, they’re not always able to digest the cow milk protein. Some babies are fine, but a lot are not.

It takes about 2-3+ weeks of eliminating dairy in the diet before noticing a difference in the baby (it won’t happen overnight). Make sure when you read labels, look out for whey, casein, lactose because that’s all dairy. When deciding to ditch dairy, it’s critical to replace those nutrients, like calcium, protein, phosphorus, vitamin D and even probiotics. I too often see women cut out dairy and not replace those lost nutrients with other foods. I am all for women cutting out dairy as I don’t believe we NEED to have it for a healthy diet, but it’s important to get the nutrients from other foods.

Some great food sources of calcium are broccoli, dark leafy greens (collard greens, bok choy, kale), almonds, sesame seeds, firm tofu (the firmer it is, the more calcium it has), fortified orange juice and other fortified foods. Vitamin D – mushrooms, sunlight, fortified foods. Protein – pretty much all vegetables have at least small amounts, beans/legumes, tofu, nuts/seeds, tempeh, lean meats (but I try to encourage plant-based as much as I can). Probiotics – tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, pickles, and probiotic drinks. There is kombucha, however, some studies have shown it’s contraindicated with breastfeeding, mostly because of the negligible amount of alcohol and its sanitation (since it must sit out), but its up for debate.

Now what to eat when you have those dairy cravings. Thankfully there are more and more foods that are dairy free! For ice cream, I recommend the brand “So Delicious” – everything they make is coconut milk; for yogurt, there is now soy or coconut milk yogurt. The brand “Silk” and “So Delicious” make them. For cheese – the brand “Daiya” or “Dr. Cow” have cheese alternatives or you can make your own with cashews and nutritional yeast (there are TONS of recipes online and Pinterest).
If you’re thinking about ditching dairy, or you’ve already eliminated it and want some guidance on how to replace those lost nutrients, contact me. I’d be happy to set up a one to one to ensure you’re meeting all your needs as well as review common words manufacturers use instead of ‘dairy’.

Photo credit: Everlasting Imagery